Hargeysa Cultural Centre
Harlem-based Somali novelist Abdi Latif Ega, author of 'Guban'. Picture by Kate Stanworth

Background

In 2008, the Redsea Cultural Foundation and Kayd, Somali diaspora organisations in Italy and the UK, joined ranks to establish the Hargeysa International Book Fair.  Now in its seventh year, the Fair has grown to become one of the largest literary festivals in East Africa. The aim of its founders, Jama Musse Jama and Ayan Ashour, has been to stimulate the revival of art and human expression among Somalis, including story telling, poetry, drama, graphic art and photography, with a stress on engaging youth, both as artists and in the organisation of the festival.
 

The project 

In February 2014, the RVI and Redsea Cultural Foundation received a grant from the European Union to establish a permanent Cultural Centre in Hargeysa. The Centre had its formal opening in August 2014, during the Book Fair. It is intended to establish Hargeysa as a cultural hub in the Somali-speaking region, a place where artists from throughout the Horn of Africa can engage with Somali culture and society. 

Jama Musse Jama, the Director of the Centre, describes the inspiring role of the late Hassan Sheikh Mumin, a poet and playwright and his “Dadwaynahaan hanuuninnaa” (“We Guide the People”), a song which forms part of his play, “Shabeel naagood” ("Tiger women"). Hasan was born in 1931, in Zeila, in what was then the British Protectorate of Somaliland. He moved to Boorame when he was nine, where he completed his elementary education. He became a radio broadcaster and later joined the staff of the Cultural Department of the Ministry of Education.He died in Oslo, 2008.

Michele Cervone d'Urso, EU Ambassador to Somaliland, and Jama Musse Jama, Director of the Hargeysa Cultural Centre, during the Ambassador's visit to the Centre in October 2014

Hasan, says Jama, was an intellectual who dedicated his whole life to social and political activism through literature. One of his last compositions was “Samo ku waar” ("Welfare of Creation") the national anthem of Somaliland.  

“Dadwaynahaan hanuuninnaa” is a three-stanza poem by Hasan with music composed by Bashiir Xaddi. Its message is that culture is the bedrock of human development. Jama Musse notes that Hasan’s aim was to simultaneously revive and adapt cultural forms, stressing, for instance, the role of women by singling out Buraanbur, the genre of traditional poetry that is composed only by women. The song itself has three stanzas, focussing respectively on the Somali language, cultural heritage and the performing arts.
 

Dadwaynahaan hanuuninnaa” (“We Guide the People”) 

by Hasan Sheikh Mumin, English translation by Jama Musse Jama

Habeen iyo dharaar,
Hadalladaan dhisnaa,
Afkeenna Hooyo oo horumaraan ku hamminaa,
Haggaaminaa, had iyo jeer habnaa, oo waan hagaajinaa,
Ma hagranee waan u hawlgalnaa,
Murtidaan hurinnaa, kala hufnaa, haqab tirnaa, u hedlanaa,
Dadwaynahaan hanuunninnaa, haasaawinnaa, danta u hagnaa.

Every day and night,
We create narratives,
Our major desire being our mother tongue developed,
We lead, feeding this development, for its betterment,
Never making less of what is in our capacity, we work for this,
Holding high the wisdom, filtering to get its best part, nourishing and ready for its growth,
We guide the public, entertain the people, and direct them to the common interest. 

Taariikhda hiddahaan,
Habaaska ka tirnaa,
Hannaankii aan ku soo dhaqmaynay baan u hiilinnaa,
Lama huraan, hilinka toosan baan, dhallinta horgalnaa,
Ma hagrannee waan u hawlgalnaa,
Murtidaan hurinnaa, kala hufnaa, haqab tirnaa, u hedlanaa,
Dadwaynahaan hanuunninnaa, haasaawinnaa, danta u hagnaa.

The story of our heritage,
We clean it and refurbish,
In defense of our way we used to life, and to behave,
So essential, we inspire the youth, guide them to the right path,
Never making less of what is in our capacity, we work for this,
Holding high the wisdom, filtering to get its best part, nourishing and ready for its growth,
We guide the public, entertain the masses, and direct them to the common interest.

Buraanbur iyo hees,
Heello iyo ciyaar,
Gabayo haybad iyo hadhaa leh baannu hindisnaa
Hurdadaan gu'yaal ka haayirnaa, naftayadaan hurnaa
Ma hagrannee waan u hawlgalnaa
Murtidaan hurinnaa, kala hufnaa, haqab tirnaa, u hedlanaa
Dadwaynahaan hanuunninnaa, haasaawinnaa, danta u hagnaa. 

Lyrics of every type, those by poetesses, and songs,
Traditional plays and modern entertainment,
High quality literature, we compose poems with everlasting value,
Losing nights and nights of sleep, we offer and dedicate our life, unselfishly,
Never making less of what is in our capacity, we work for this,
Holding high the wisdom, filtering to get the best of it, nourishing and ready for its growth,
We guide the public, entertain the people, and direct them to the common interest.